To be honest I didn't really look if we already had a thread like this but anyways.. There was a nice article on the WTA Tour website about Maria, so I'll start with that one.
On The Rise Again: Maria Kirilenko
NEW YORK, NY, USA - Despite a first round loss at the US Open, there's no doubt Maria Kirilenko has been finding her best form again this season. She was a Top 20 player for four weeks in 2006 and this summer, after nearly two full years outside the elite, broke back into it thanks to some impressive play in the last 12 months. Now she is poised to keep that upwards momentum going.
Kirilenko burst into the upper echelon of the women's game for the first time in the fall of 2005, making a surprising run to her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title in Beijing, a Tier II event. She continued to build on her ranking in the months to follow, and for the four-week grass court season in 2006, between June 12 and July 9, she was the world's No.20 player.
Following most upwards moves is a plateau, however, with points to defend and other players become accustomed to the rising star's game. Kirilenko was unable to defend her Beijing title in 2006 and continued to struggle with consistency in her results over the next several months. It showed in her ranking, which at one point dipped out of the Top 40, although it never strayed too far from that group.
"I was very up and down in my results; I'd play a good tournament then a bad one," Kirilenko said. "Winning the China Open gave me lots of points, but when it came time to defend them I couldn't, so I dropped down quite a bit. I knew that was something I had to work on, staying consistent week to week."
Kirilenko kept working hard, and a new and very experienced coaching change - bringing Eric Van Harpen on board - may have been what she needed.
"Although I was always working hard the results weren't there. But my coaching is perfect now. Eric and I started just before Wimbledon last year, and right away I had some great weeks in America, with some important wins against Jankovic and Bartoli, and I felt I was on my way back up.
"Eric and I understand each other perfectly. He's not only helping me become a better player physically, but he's teaching me how to think better on the court and look for the right situations, instead of just going for winners all the time."
The fall of 2007 brought Kirilenko her second Tour title at Kolkata and 2008 has seen her win another two - both on clay - at Estoril and Barcelona. She also reached her first Grand Slam second week at the Australian Open. And on June 16, she triumphantly returned to the Top 20, surpassing her previous high.
"I was really happy with how I played on clay this year; now I have to say my favorite surfaces are hard AND clay; although grass still doesn't work that well for me! But overall my game has changed a lot, and I feel like I'm still improving all the time. I'll learn how to do well on all surfaces."
Although she has since dipped just outside of the world's 20 best again, Kirilenko is already looking towards a higher milestone.
"If I can play my best more consistently from tournament to tournament, I think I can make the Top 15 soon, at least that's my goal. I'm still a bit up and down, but we're working on that. I feel like I can be in the Top 10 one day, too."